Category Archives: Events

Gillett G. Griffin Memorial Lecture

The Gillett G. Griffin Memorial Lecture Series is being established in honor of our former colleague Gillett Good Griffin (1942-2016), who served as graphic arts curator within Rare Books and Special Collections from 1952 to 1966. Although officially the collection’s second curator, he was the first to establish a place for the graphic arts collection inside Firestone Library, along with galleries and study rooms where students were regularly and warmly welcomed. Gillett’s passion for collecting began almost 70 years ago while he was a student at Yale University School of Art. His personal collection of Japanese prints, for instance, was begun as an undergraduate and later, when Gillett generously donated them to Princeton University Library, formed the basis for the department’s collection.

When we received the sad news of Gillett’s passing in June 2016, we wanted to find a way to not only commemorate the man but also his passion for bringing objects in the collection directly to the public and the public to the collection. To that end, we decided to select one of the great treasures acquired by Gillett for an in-depth investigation presented in a public memorial lecture.

In 2017, the inaugural lecture will be delivered by Dr. Sara Stevenson, former chief curator at the National Galleries of Scotland. For 36 years, Dr. Stevenson was responsible for building and developing the Scottish National Photography Collection and she continues to publish, her most recent publication entitled: Scottish Photography: The First Thirty Years. Her lecture, “The London Circle: Early Explorations of Photography,” will highlight the Richard Willats album of early paper photography purchased for the graphic arts collection by Gillett.

The lecture will be held on Sunday, April 2, 2017, at 3:00 in the Friends Center followed by a reception. The event is free and open to the public.


Fine Press Book Fair

Despite the cold weather, a large crowd showed up for the 4th annual Manhattan Fine Press Book Fair on Saturday, March 11, in the basement of the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer.

Exhibitors included Abecedarian Gallery, Denver, CO; Alice Austin, Philadelphia, PA; Booklyn, Brooklyn, NY; Ken Botnick, St. Louis, MO; Bridge Press, Westmoreland, NH; Caliban Press, Canton, NY; Center for Book Arts, New York, NY; Gerald W. Cloud Rare Books, SF, CA; Edition Schwarze Seite, Scheer/Donau, Germany; Furious Day Press, New York, NY; Leslie Gerry Editions, Gloucestershire, UK; Harsimus Press, Jersey City, NJ; Intima Press, New York, NY; Lead Graffiti, Newark, DE; Leopard Studio Editions, Rochester, NY; Nancy Loeber, Brooklyn, NY; Luminice Press, Philadelphia, PA; Russell Maret, New York, NY; Midnight Paper Sales, Stockholm, WI; Mixolydian Editions, Petaluma, CA; Sarah Nicholls, Brooklyn, NY; Olchef Press, Newark, NJ; Otter Bookbinding, Woking, Surrey, UK; Pied Oxen Printers, Hopewell, NJ; Sarah Plimpton, New York, NY; Purgatory Pie Press, New York, NY; Robin Price Publisher, Middletown, CT; Maria Veronica San Martin, Brooklyn, NY and Santiago, Chile; Shanty Bay Press, Shanty Bay, Ontario, Canada; Sherwin Beach Press, Chicago, IL; Swamp Press, Northfield, MA; Tideline Press, West Sayville, NY; Traffic Street Press, New York, NY; Two Ponds Press, Rockport, ME; University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA; and Whittington Press, Gloucestershire, UK.

Ephemera collectors came early and stayed late, browsing through the bins.

Material varied enormously from old to new, small to large, unique and mass produced.

Enjoy the last day of the ABAA New York Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory.

Natural History Illustration

The 76 students enrolled in ART 345/HUM 345 “Art and Knowledge in the Nineteenth Century” taught by Dr. Bridget A. Alsdorf and Dr. Rachael Z. DeLue are visiting RBSC this week. Their focus is natural history and natural history illustration from the 16th to 20th century.


On view are:
Conrad Gessner, Historiae animalium (Tiguri: C. Froschoverum, 1551-87), RBSC Oversize QL41.G37f

Mark Catesby, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands: Containing the Figures of Birds, Beasts, Fishes, Serpents, Insects and Plants, volume 1 (London: Charles Marsh, 1754), RBSC Oversize QH41.C292e

Ernst Haeckel, Kunstformen der Natur (Leipzig und Wien: Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts, 1904), RBSC Oversize 2007-0290Q

John James Audubon, The Birds of America: from original drawings by John James Audubon … (London: Pub. by the author, 1827-38). RBSC Oversize EX 8880.134.11; along with an Audubon rifle and one double-elephant printing plate.

The student are viewing animals, both real and imagined, miniature and life-size, through woodcuts, etchings, aquatints, and  lithographs. Don’t miss the gentlemen cooking their dinner inside the creature at the bottom of this post.

ARLIS/NA Statement on Proposals to Eliminate Funding for the NEA, NEH, and IMLS

On Tuesday, February 6, 2017, the Art Libraries Society of North America released this statement:

The Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) believes that lives are enriched by engagement with the visual arts, design, and cultural heritage. As the leading art information organization, the Society strongly opposes the proposed elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

In January, articles from The Hill reported that then U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and his team were considering the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). During the early part of 2017, the President and his staff will draft a budget that is reportedly based largely on the report A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America prepared by the Republican Study Committee and that recommends the following cuts to the federal budget:

“The federal government should not be in the business of funding the arts. Support for the arts can easily and more properly be found from non-governmental sources. Eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts would save taxpayers $148 million per year and eliminating the National Endowment for the Humanities would save an additional $148 million per year.” (Pg. 96)
“The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) provides grants to local museums and libraries, a task that can be better handled by the private sector and local governments. Eliminating the IMLS would save $230 million per year.” (Pg. 97)

Each year, the arts create $135 billion in economic activity, employing over 4 million Americans, and totaling $86 billion in household income. Additionally, funding for arts organizations comprises a tiny fraction of the overall Federal budget (approximately .02 percent). Libraries and museums have a significant impact on the economic, social and cultural environment of communities by promoting life-long learning, creative expression, and access to a wealth of information, programs and services. Numerous institutions where ARLIS/NA members work have been or are currently funded by at least one, if not all three of these federal agencies. Without this funding, the nation’s libraries, museums, and arts and humanities centers cannot provide the critical support needed for research and education.

These proposed budget cuts would cause serious obstructions to creative expression, cultural enrichment, life-long learning, and a threat to the growth of the creative economy. For these reasons, ARLIS/NA opposes the proposed defunding and eradication of the NEA, NEH, and IMLS.

When was cheap at its height?

Just a quick note:

In response to a recent call for papers concerning quick, cheap printing in the United States, I did a Google Ngram search on the word cheap (and other synonyms). It was necessary to limit this to pre-1900 because the concept explodes in the early 20th century. Here’s the result.

It is curious that a bargain overtakes cheap in the 1790s and the 1820s. It looks like 1761 was not a good year for cheap things but that we were equally cheap in 1770 and 1890.

 Here is the cfp, if you haven’t already received it:

International Conference on Buddhist Manuscript Cultures, January 2017

Friday afternoon some of the participants of the International Conference on Buddhist Manuscript Cultures visited our department and Martin Heijdra, Director of The East Asian Library and the Gest Collection, introduced them to a few treasures at Princeton University Library. The conference, which continues through Sunday, is sponsored by the Henry Luce Foundation, the Mount Kuaiji Buddhist Association, GS Charity Foundation, and Princeton University’s Buddhist Studies Workshop, Tang Center for East Asian Art, Program in East Asian Studies, and Department of Religion.

Here is a taste of what they saw. For more information, see the website:


Page one


The Ghostlight Project at Princeton

We are invited to join McCarter Theatre Center, Princeton University Triangle Club, and the Princeton University Lewis Center for the Arts Program in Theater on Thursday, January 19, 2017, for a brief gathering on the lawn outside the Matthews Theatre to launch The Ghostlight Project. This event is free and open to the public.

The Ghostlight Project aims to create spaces that will serve as beacons of light in the coming years, the hoped-for outcome of which is a network of people across the country working to support vulnerable communities. These gatherings are a public affirmation of each theater’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. They are a pledge to stand for and protect the values of inclusion, participation, and compassion for everyone regardless of race, class, religion, country of origin, immigration status, (dis)ability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Organizers ask that participants begin to arrive starting at 5:00 p.m. At 5:30 p.m., a series of brief remarks will commence, followed by a group “moment of light.” The event will conclude by 6:00 p.m. For more information about The Ghostlight Project, including a full list of participating theaters, visit

Making history: collections, collectors, and the cultural role of printing museums

Association of European Printing Museums (AEPM) 2017

In case you haven’t already seen this call for papers, please consider proposing something for the upcoming AEPM conference. Princeton University Library is a member.

The conference will take place May 11-13, 2017 at The Museum of Typography, Chania, Crete (Greece) and the theme will be: Making history: collections, collectors and the cultural role of printing museums. It will look at the ways in which collections of printing heritage materials become museums. Possible subjects for discussion include:

Who collects printing heritage materials?
How is printing heritage transmitted from one generation to the next?
What motivates founders of printing museums?
How do collections become museums?
How are collections made available to the public?
What forms do independent printing museums take – associations, foundations, privately-owned companies?
What challenges do independent collections and printing museums have to face?

Proposals for talks are invited from museums of printing and graphic communication, and from heritage workshops, collectors, and scholars involved in printing heritage. Abstracts of no longer than 250 words should be submitted along with a brief biography to: and by January 30, 2017. Speakers will be allocated 30 minutes (including discussion) in which to present their papers.

The conference will also offer an opportunity to discover some aspects of Greek printing heritage with the help of several invited speakers:

Yiannis Filis, former dean of the Technical University of Crete (Greece)

Gerry Leonidas, associate professor of typography at the Department of typography and graphic communication, vice-president of ATypI (United Kingdom)

Klimis Mastoridis, professor of typography & graphic communication, University of Nicosia, Cyprus

George D. Matthiopoulos, lecturer in the Department of graphic design at the School of art and design of the Technological Educational Institute of Athens (Greece)

Konstantinos Staikos, architect, book historian and researcher (Greece)


Having just moved a library collection ourselves, it is fun to see how someone else accomplished it. According to their publicity, the first Rijksmuseum opened in 1800 and eight years later, the new King Louis Napoleon moved the collections to the Royal Palace on Dam Square, the former city hall of Amsterdam. In 1876 the architect, Pierre Cuypers, was commissioned to design a new building, which remained basically unchanged since its opening in 1885.

From 2003 to 2013, the entire building and presentation of their collections was renovated. For the first time, the museum’s Special Collections are also displayed so that visitors can enjoy objects from the applied arts, science, and national history, including their collection of magic lantern slides, hold-to-light prints, and optical devices [see below].



The building is also the home of the Cuypers Library, the largest and oldest art historical library in the Netherlands, holding 5,4 km (3 1/3 miles) of books. During their recent renovation, not only was the original study room updated but a viewing balcony for the visiting public was installed so non-researcher do not disrupt those actively using study materials.

The reading room is shared between the library and the print study collection, which holds more than 500,000 engravings, etchings, woodcuts, lithographs, and “sheets in other graphic techniques” dating from 1440 to the present. Fashion and ornament prints, maps, decorative papers, and popular prints are included alongside the Rembrandts, Picassos, and the other masterworks. More information about appointments can be found here:

A Rijksmuseum Special Collections hold-to-light slide. This link takes you to similar views in the Graphic Arts Collection at Princeton.

Song of Myself



8,992 words from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” spiral outward from a fountain in New York’s newly dedicated AIDS Memorial. Located in St. Vincent’s Triangle, across from the former site of St. Vincent’s Hospital where an AIDS ward opened in 1984, the memorial was designed by Jenny Holzer and will be completed before the end of 2016.


The first Leaves of Grass was put on sale in at least two stores, one in New York and another in Brooklyn, in late June of 1855. Printed in the shop of Andrew Rome of Brooklyn (where Andrew was assisted by his younger brother Tom), the quarto-size volume was designed and published by Whitman himself, who is also believed to have set the type for a few of its 95 pages. As William White has shown, 795 copies were printed in all, 599 of which were bound in cloth with varying degrees of gilt, the rest of them in paper or boards. A recent census of extant copies of the first edition reveals that nearly 200 copies survive today. Ivan Marki, “Leaves of Grass, 1855 edition,” in J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).

Princeton University Library has three copies of Whitman’s 1855 edition. Seen here: Walt Whitman (1819-1892), Leaves of Grass (Brooklyn, N.Y.: [Walt Whitman]; [Brooklyn: Rome Bros], 1855). Rare Books (Ex) Behrman American no. 226q.



I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.

Read the entire poem: